Evelyne and her family live in a small flat in Umoja, a deprived and crowded area of Nairobi. Evelyne was diagnosed with cervical cancer in June at the age of just 37. She has had two courses of chemotherapy but the cancer has spread. Swellings on her breast bone caused by cancer spreading to the bones cause her pain in her chest and shoulders. An ultrasound confirmed a blood clot in her leg, causing painful swelling. She is feeling very weak and sleepy.
“I don’t feel well. With getting the news that the chemo didn’t work, the cancer coming back, I just feel so down”, she told us tearfully, unable to speak in more than a whisper.
Mercy, the nurse from Nairobi Hospice, has been visiting Evelyne regularly to help with her medication and to provide support. Evelyne is taking medication to control both her pain and symptoms, and to counteract the side effects of some of the drugs. This complex combination of medicines is closely monitored and balanced by Mercy.
Mercy is concerned that Evelyne’s son has become withdrawn and is not coping well. She will ensure that she spends time to counsel him and provide the support he needs. Evelyne has also attended day care sessions at Nairobi Hospice. She told us:
“When I go to the hospice it feels like home. It’s good to go and discuss with other cancer patients, it really helps. The nurses provide a good service”.
Evelyne now needs a blood transfusion to regain strength. Despite the family being enrolled in the government’s National Health Insurance Fund, the cost of a blood transfusion will not be covered. Her husband is her full-time carer, so they rely on family members to pay their living costs and support their two children. The lack of free comprehensive healthcare is an added strain on a family that is already living with the devastating effects of cancer.
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